Going Green Part One

Grass Light Bulb

It seems everyone is going  green – and not just on St. Patrick’s Day.

For a growing number of Alabama Realtors and builders, “Green” represents more than a popular hue. ARC Associate Broker Amy Santagata is one of a growing number of Alabama Realtors earning the National Association of Realtors’ “Green” designation, indicating coursework completion in resource-efficient homes.

Greater Birmingham Association of Home Builders President Marshall Newport of Newport Builders represents another growing number of professionals -- area home builders specializing in sustainable, energy-efficient building practices.


Santagata says  energy-efficiency is becoming a significant selling feature in both new and existing homes. “Buyers recognize energy-efficient elements more than ever before. They’ve done their research and know those items will put money in their pockets.”


Newport says what consumers might not know is that sustainable building and remodeling is about much more than merely adding insulation or other energy-efficient features.


“One thing we’re addressing now is the need for ventilation,” he says. “The saying in our business is, ‘Build tight, ventilate right.’ Builders and consumers need to look at each house as a system, considering how the different elements of a house interact. That’s a large part of our new-school ‘sustainable’ building and remodeling practices.”


In the past, builders focused on building “tight” homes that retained heated or cooled air, unintentionally creating mildew-prone spaces. Indoor air quality can also be impacted by gasses released from new paint, textiles, glues and other compounds. That’s why Newport says many consumers now seek  low-VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) labeling, especially when replacing cabinets, carpets or other materials in existing homes.


Santagata says sellers who have made low-VOC improvements to their homes may have a competitive market advantage. “People are more knowledgeable about what they put on their walls, floors and windows,” Santagata says. “Owners and buyers are much more educated now, and they ask those questions.”


Here are some other sales-worthy indoor efficiency trends these pros say buyers may be seeking this season:


-LED lighting. Since today’s much-improved LED lights are softer and less expensive than before, they are becoming standard equipment in much of today’s market.

-Programmable thermostats. Often a DYI installation, these features are immediately recognized by buyers as providing good returns on investment.

-High-efficiency mechanicals. On-demand hot water heaters are becoming more common in new builds and remodels, while updated heating and air systems are valued for homes of all ages.

-R-values. Specialists like Newport are equipped to detect R-value, a measure of how well an object (window, door, wall) resists conductive heat flow. Smart consumers not only seek high R-value windows and doors, but surrounding insulation, trim and caulking and other weatherization features to support those systems.


Alabama’s  Going Green practices also extend to lawn, gardens and whole communities.